Forage Has Greened Up – So What’s Next?

Tom Kilcer, Certified Crop Advisor, Kinderhook, New York
(Previously published online with FarmProgress – American Agriculturalist: March 19, 2024)

Commentary: Early spring growth demands sufficient nitrogen and sulfur to optimize yield and quality.

Winter is coming to an end, and much faster than in normal years.

People I talked to in New York say they had less winter than we did in Tennessee. We saw an 8-inch blizzard — we rarely get 1 inch — and minus 9 degrees! We never get that cold this far south.

In any case, winter forage and grasses are greening up. This is one of those years where you should move early to get a jump on the season. The already enormous amount of spring growth demands sufficient nitrogen and sulfur to optimize yield and quality.

There are many factors that determine the best nitrogen rate to apply in spring. Recommended rates can be anywhere from 0 to 250 pounds of N per acre. You can’t change what happened last fall, but you can use it to determine Continue reading

Local Plant Toxicities of Livestock

Dr. Bom Harris, DVM, Old Dominion Veterinary Services, VA
(Previously published online with Old Dominion Veterinary Services: March 17, 2021)

Some of the most beautiful and luscious plants can have deadly consequences for our livestock. These are the plant toxicities seen most commonly in livestock in our area:

Cattle are most susceptible to acorn toxicity, although sheep can be affected. Tannins in the acorns and oak leaves are the main toxic agent and are present in higher quantities in green acorns. Toxicity is most commonly observed in recently weaned calves. The tannins consumed in acorns can cause kidney failure. Typical signs of this include abdominal pain, excessive thirst, frequent urination and down animals off-feed. Continue reading

Manage Feed Costs by Evaluating Hay Waste

PennState Extension
(Previously published online with PennState Extension: May 26, 2023)
Sheep and goat operations all experience some amount of hay waste during winter feeding. Now is a good time to look back and evaluate how much hay was wasted.

The largest input cost for any livestock enterprise is feed costs. In forage dependent operations, most of these feed costs occur during the winter when feeding hay. Spring is a great time to assess hay feeding areas and consider how much hay the sheep or goats wasted over the winter.

Is there a large amount of wasted hay lying next to the hay feeders? Did pens inside the barn require minimal bedding last year due to the amount of hay waste? A “yes” answer to either of these questions should inspire producers to look more closely at feed quality and feeder design. Using feeders should be an obvious means to help reduce waste. Less obvious perhaps is the concept that feeders can also help to promote animal health. This occurs by preventing fecal or soil contamination that can lead to problems such as internal parasites, coccidia, or listeriosis. Hay losses can range from Continue reading

Listeriosis in Sheep and Goats

Michael Metzger, Michigan State University Extension Educator
(Previously published on MSU Extension, Sheep & Goat: November 17, 2023)

(Image Source: Michael Metzger, Michigan State University)

Listeriosis is a disease that can affect all ruminants as well as other animal species and humans.

Listeriosis is an important infectious disease of sheep and goats most commonly causing encephalitis, but also capable of causing a blood infection and abortion. The organism can be shed in milk from an infected carrier animal as well as sick animals which has a risk of infecting humans.

Listeriosis is caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes and is commonly seen in cooler climates. These bacteria can be found in the soil, food sources, the gut, and feces of healthy animals. Most commonly, this disease of sheep and goats is observed as a result of feeding moldy or spoiled hay or silage that has not been properly fermented. It’s possible for your sheep and goats to become infected without feeding moldy or spoiled hay or silage as the organism is commonly found in the environment.

Common sources of contamination Continue reading

Ewe Are What Your Grandparents Ate?

Caroline Schneider, 2011 MS Student, University of Wisconsin Madison
(Previously published online with the University of Wisconsin Madison: Grow – Wisconsin’s magazine for the life sciences, Fall 2023)

(Image Source: Michael P. King)

Through a first-of-its-kind study, CALS animal scientists show us how our diets could modify the DNA of our grandchildren — and beyond.

“You are what you eat.” We’ve all heard this old adage before. But during pregnancy, maternal nutrition can have a large impact on a baby, as well, suggesting you’re also what your mother eats. Now, new research from the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences is taking that one step further by showing that you may in fact be what your grandparents — or even great grandparents — ate.

It might be time for a new adage. Professor Hasan Khatib and colleagues in his lab have spent several years studying how a specialized diet in one generation of animals might affect those that come after. More specifically, they’re looking at the DNA of animals — sheep, in this case — to see if changes get passed on to their offspring, their offspring’s offspring, and so on. However, they’re not examining the Continue reading

Get Ready: Winter Livestock Management

Dr. Susan Kerr, Washington State University, Emeritus Professor – Livestock and Dairy Regional Extension Specialist
(Previously published online with Washington State University, Whatcom Ag Monthly: Volume 5, Issue 11)

Rain, sleet, snow, ice, and freezing temperatures are on the way. Winter can be a real struggle for two- or four-legged animals. Those of us with two legs can generally put on a warmer coat or go inside to warm up with a cup of something hot, but what can livestock managers do to keep animals healthy and comfortable in the upcoming winter? Being proactive about livestock’s winter needs will reap many more dividends than will responding to a problem after it has developed.

The necessity of a clean and reliable year-round source of water cannot be overemphasized. Novice managers often mistakenly believe that animals can meet water requirements by eating snow or licking ice. With daily water requirements varying from three gallons (sheep) to 14 gallons (beef cattle, more for dairy), one can see that livestock would need to spend every waking hour eating snow to meet their requirements. Ice and snow consumption also Continue reading

Forage Challenges as the Weather Turns Cooler to Keep Livestock Safe

Kyle Verhoff, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Defiance County
Jason Hartschuh, Dairy Management and Precision Livestock, Field Specialist

(Image Source: SA Mohair Growers Association)

As the year begins to wrap up and temperatures drop, there are countless things to consider including how the coming frosts impact the toxicity of our forages. This past week many portions of the state began to flirt with possible overnight frosts which raises concerns of prussic acid poisoning, nitrate poisoning, and increased bloat as a result of feeding certain fall forages.

What is prussic acid toxicity?
Prussic acid toxicity is the accumulation of prussic acid (i.e., hydrogen cyanide) in forage plant tissue. Prussic acid is the product of a reaction between two naturally occurring plant molecules, cyanogenic glycosides and degrading enzymes. Plant cell walls usually separate the two, but a frost event freezes the water in a plant cell, rupturing the cell wall and allowing the formation of prussic acid.

What variables contribute to prussic acid toxicity?
Forage Species
The forage species that are the main concern when it comes to prussic acid toxicity are Continue reading

Incorporating Cull Pumpkins into Livestock Diets

Dr. Susan Kerr, Washington State University, Emeritus Professor – Livestock and Dairy Regional Extension Specialist
(Previously published online with Washington State University, Whatcom Ag Monthly: Volume 5, Issue 2)

Pumpkins–those beautiful orange orbs of autumn–aren’t just beautiful and delicious, they can also make a pretty darn good alternative livestock feed. Maybe…

Thanks to a large biodegradable mulch trial at the WSU-Mount Vernon Research and Extension Center in 2015 that featured pumpkins, we had a large amount of pumpkins to find a purpose for at the conclusion of the trial. Word went out to area livestock producers to engage in a non-scientific pumpkin feeding trial.

Questions to Answer
Study goals included answering the following questions:

  • What is the nutritional value of pumpkins as a livestock feed?
  • Which livestock species are best suited to eating pumpkins?
  • How much labor is needed to make pumpkins suitable for each species?
  • How much of a normal feed ration could be replaced by pumpkins?
  • Are there any positive or negative effects on animal health or performance?
  • What pumpkin storage issues are involved with long-term feeding?

Straw and pumpkin silage, ensiled 100 days (Image Source: Washington State University)

Storage Solution = “Pumpkage”?
If temperature and humidity can be controlled, pumpkins can be easily stored for several months, but not forever; mold and rot eventually occur. This is unfortunate because often when cull pumpkins are available, this means LOTS of pumpkins requiring LOTS of storage space, but rarely optimal storage conditions. Continue reading

Matching Forages to the Nutrient Needs of Meat Goats

Paul Mueller, Professor Emeritus, Crop and Soil Sciences
Matt Poore, Department Extension Leader and Ruminant Nutrition Specialist, Animal Science
JM Luginbuhl, Extension Specialist (Goats & Forage Systems), Crop and Soil Sciences
Jim Green, Professor and Extension Specialist (Forage Crops/Pastures), Crop and Soil Sciences
(Previously published online with North Carolina State Extension: November 3, 2020)

Forages for goats
Goats offer an alternative to utilizing forage and vegetation which is otherwise “wasted,” while producing a healthful food product (meat) currently marketable and in demand by a growing segment of the US population. In addition, because of their preference for “browse” goats offer the potential for using idle land that is currently unproductive, and for biological control of unwanted vegetation in pastures and forests without use of pesticides.

Goats consume only the best parts of a wide range of grasses, legumes, and browse plants. Browse plants include brambles, shrubs, trees, and vines with woody stems. The quality of feed on offer will depend on many things, but it is usually most directly related to the age or stage of growth at the time of grazing. The nutrient composition for several common feed types found on many farms is shown in Table 1. Continue reading